What's the dance scene in Iceland like? Where are dance classes held? Which dance type is common in Iceland? Where can you watch dance performances? Are there any famous Icelandic dancers?
My Dance Background
In no way am I an expert, but I myself dance Argentinian tango which I mainly learned in Buenos Aires and have dabbled with various other forms of dance, in both Iceland and London. The styles I've had a go at include belly dancing, hip hop, african dance, zumba, ballroom, salsa, samba, contemporary and most recently pole dancing and Beyoncé style.
When I just started dating my boyfriend I convinced him to partake in his first ever dance classes. Seeing as the poor man was doing his first classes of any kind of dance I figured we should start with something I was also unfamiliar with and something slow and then take it up a notch.
So we started learning how to dance the blues, before moving on to lindy hop and rock & roll - this was in London. (I recommend Swing Patrol for classes in London).
When he attended his first ever 'social dancing' night he was a little bit apprehensive.
I have become so used to going out dancing that I didn't realise how different it is for someone that has never done so - going out where everyone is dancing with total strangers without being completely piss drunk and (mainly) without people necessarily hitting on each other.
We later moved to Iceland, but he sort of gave up on attending classes before the move, but since there's a great little dance scene in Iceland I every now and then convince him to try something new and different.
The Dance Scene in Reykjavik
Iceland hasn't exactly been known for a rich dance scene historically, and the cold weather doesn't favour dancing in the streets.
The only traditional dance in Iceland is a type of folk dance, which requires the body to be pretty stiff (although it's a pretty fun dance) and it doesn't require any bouncy moves or hip movements. So Icelanders can be a little shy about twerking their bums and more in favour of moving their arms and legs.
- Find Culture Tours in Iceland here
Hopefully I think that's slowly changing, with plenty of different dance styles available for people of all ages and popular groups such as reggae band Amabadama encouraging people to bounce around (the title of the song above is 'Hossa hossa' that translates to 'Bounce bounce').
The street dancer Brynja Péturs has also been teaching young kids for years how to dance street, and there is a massive growth in street dance in Iceland, big enough to have a yearly street dance battle!
Below you can see a clip from a Street Dance Carnival they held in February 2017 in the gorgeous venue Iðnó.
A few years ago I was interviewed by a friend for an Icelandic magazine about things to do in Reykjavík because the interviewer was impressed about all the knowledge I had about the 'underground' dance and activity scene in Reykjavík.
- See also: Top 10 Things to Do in Reykjavik
For people that only go out for the 'drinking and dancing' nightlife it often comes as a surprise when they encounter a salsa night or a 50's themed night where the people ACTUALLY know how to properly dance to the music.
- See also: Nightlife in Reykjavik
And I think that there are probably a lot of people out there that have always wanted to learn how to dance one type of dance or another but feel embarrassed to start at a mature age or are afraid to do so. At least I constantly meet people that say "I've always wanted to learn how to dance tango!"
So, if you are one of those people that have always wanted to learn how to dance but have for some reason never done it - I urge you to check out what your local scene has to offer!
And whatever dance style you choose to learn, I can almost guarantee that when you go to Iceland you'll be able to find people that are interested in the same thing.
Kramhúsið Dance & Art Centre
First of all I need to mention Kramhúsið Dance & Art Centre, as the name Kramhúsið will pop up a lot when I talk about the types of dance offered in Iceland.
Kramhúsið is a much loved venue in the centre of Reykjavík, and a personal favourite. It's on the corner of Skólavörðustígur and Bergstaðastræti street, and is a true hidden gem within Reykjavík with more than 30 years of dance history.
I call it a 'dance centre' for the purpose of this blog, but in fact it's so much more. It's a venue that hosts all sorts of classes within the arts, for children, adults, elderly, fat and thin people of all colours and nationalities and it has a great atmosphere.
Here is where the tango scene originated, as well as the Icelandic Circus and the female choir of Reykjavik. (YES, Reykjavík has its own circus group!) Read more about the Icelandic Circus here.
Dance types on offer in Kramhúsið vary from year to year, depending on supply and demand. But regular classes may include belly dancing, Afro (African dance), Tango, Bollywood, Contemporary, Zumba, Balkan, Hula Hoop, Hip Hop, Breakdance, Ballet for adults, Street, Disco, Broadway, Krump, Beyoncé dances, Salsa, Flamenco or even traditional Icelandic dances.
I'm currently taking Beyoncé classes with the phenomenal Margrét Erla Maack, that teaches not only Beyoncé but also belly dancing, burlesque and Broadway dance. She's also known as Mamma Kabarett, as she runs the Reykjavík Kabarett nights that I urge everyone visiting Iceland to attend.
Besides dance classes at Kramhúsið you might even want to sign up for some yoga, pregnancy yoga, zumba, tai chi, pilates, drama classes, or even a burlesque course or a drag workshop if it's on offer. And if you've got kids, then there's a whole lot of creative stuff on offer for them as well, including some circus workshops in summer. There are regular classes during the winter as well as summer programs.
- See also: Secret Spots & Hidden Gems in Reykjavik
Types of Dance in Iceland
Belly Dancing in Iceland
Belly dancing took Iceland by a storm in the early 2000's. I'm pretty sure that I'm telling the truth when I say that Josy Zareen was one of the first teachers of belly dancing in Iceland, and she does still have her own belly dance studio. But she took a break from teaching and in the meantime belly dancing teachers seemed to pop up everywhere.
Belly dancing is also taught at Kramhúsið, as well as at a number of gyms all over Reykjavík. Just google the word 'magadansnámskeið' (e. Belly Dance Course) and see the amount of results that pop up!
Tango in Iceland
It comes as quite a shock sometimes (even to Icelanders) to hear that you can dance tango 4 times a week in Reykjavík and there are 2 tango festivals held there per year (Open Embrace Tango Marathon taking place in March - and Tango on Ice taking place in September).
The venues for dancing tango may vary, but it's been taking place at Kramhúsið on Friday nights for years and at the café Kaffitár in Bankastræti on Wednesday nights as well. Pop in and say hi, you can normally just do an introductory class for free or a very small fee and then stay for a milonga afterwards.
Salsa Dancing and Bachata in Reykjavik
There is also a group of people that meet up once a week to shake their bodies to salsa music and there is always a possibility to join a salsa or bachata class, find further info at Salsa Iceland.
The Midnight Sun Salsa is the first salsa congress to be held in Iceland, and took place in May 2017. Who knows, maybe it will happen again!
Kizomba in Iceland
The newest member on the Icelandic dance scene is most likely Kizomba. However, there has already been a Kizomba Festival that took place between the 1st and 3rd of September 2017 and will likely become a yearly event.
Visit Kizomba is Icelandic! to find classes and workshops.
Lindy Hop in Iceland
If Lindy Hop is more your thing, then you should check out the upcoming events at Reykjavík Rhythm Groove, that they list on their Facebook page. Occasionally they offer Blues classes as well.
There's a weekly Lindy Hop dance jam on Wednesday nights at the Peterson suite.
And the University of Iceland has a dance group (you don't need to attend the University to attend the dance classes) that teaches West Coast Swing, Lindy Hop, Boogie Woogie, Swing, Contemporary, Salsa and Argentine Tango... Check out Háskóladansinn, Iceland's University Dance Group.
And you better not miss the Arctic Lindy Exchange Festival that takes place in August, it's the only travelling dance festival in the world! It's held for a whole week, focusing on lindy hop and containing numerous live swing concerts. Above you can see a clip from their beach party in 2010.
Pole Dancing in Reykjavik
Pole dancing, and pole fitness has been making a breakthrough in the Reykjavík dance scene, with a number of locations offering classes.
My go-to venue is Eríal Pole, that also offers aerial hoop classes and the most amazing stretch classes twice a week. The teachers are amazing and you can feel improvements in every class. You can come for a taster class or get a clip card for just 10 classes - and their pricing is very reasonable.
Street Dance in Reykjavik
If Street is your thing and you want to improve on your Wacking, Dancehall, Commercial, Break or House skills you can always take a class with the awesome hip hop dance teacher Brynja Péturs.
She has almost single handedly built up a thriving street dance scene in Iceland and is an absolute joy to be around.
She teaches mostly kids and teenagers, but there are also classes for 18+ and even a special 'party class' for 30+ years old. And if you want to spice up the sexy, then you can do a class called Heels Performance or Twerk Out.
Obviously there is an endless list of schools where you can learn different styles of dancing, Ballet or Jazz or Ballroom or whatever takes your fancy... but somehow people aren't necessarily very aware of all of it, maybe because there's suddenly so much on offer, but possibly because most dance classes are aimed at children.
However whenever I have attended a new form of dancing all the teachers and fellow students have been extremely welcoming, no matter what my age is, so there's nothing left to do but decide on which dance to learn and tie on your best dancing shoes and be off! - If you're feeling even more adventurous you can even check out some aerial acrobatics at a circus practice or a pole studio!
Other Festivals Including Dance in Reykjavik
Besides Dance Festivals taking place, such as the Tango on Ice and Arctic Lindy Exchange, there are also dance festivals for you to enjoy as an audience member.
First up is Reykjavík Dance Festival which takes place in August, where you can admire some of Iceland's finest contemporary dancers show off their skills.
Then there is Everybody's Spectacular, a collaboration project between Reykjavík Dance Festival and Lókal Theatre festival, taking place in November, also mainly focusing on contemporary dance.
Also be sure what's going on at the bi-annual Reykjavík Art Festival in May.
If you'd rather move your own body then there's the One Million Rising - or the One Billion Rising, a dance party that's in support of ending violence against women. This takes place yearly at the same time as the great music festival Sónar Reykjavík and has free entrance for all.
Photo by Þorbjörn Þorgeirsson
Also look up what the Iceland Dance Company is up to. Originally a ballet company, and only with classically trained dancers, it has in recent years focused on contemporary dance. The Iceland Dance Company consists of 8-14 dancers and they regularly tour internationally with new pieces, currently (from 2017-2018) touring the piece SACRIFICE or FÓRN in Icelandic.
They of course also perform in Iceland, and are for example choreographing a piece with Sigur Rós for the Norður og Niður festival at the end of 2017. Below you can see notable Icelandic contemporary dancer Erna Ómarsdóttir perform in a music video for Sigur Rós.
There are also plenty of other festivals in Iceland to choose from, both music festivals (where you can dance yourself), or culture and art festivals. Read more about festivals in Iceland here, and find a list that includes all of them!
Famous Icelandic Dancers
If it's ballet you want to see, then have a look at the program at Harpa Concert Hall, as international ballet groups regularly perform there, such as the St Petersburg ballet or the San Francisco ballet, where the artistic director and principal choreographer is Icelandic former professional ballet dancer Helgi Tómasson.
Karen Björk Björgvinsdóttir is the only Icelandic dancer to win the World Championship in Ballroom dancing with Australian partner Adam Reeve. They won the European Championship in 2000, but became World Champions in 2003.
Another ballroom dancer, Hanna Rún Óladóttir, has won the Icelandic Ballroom Championships 26 times, as well as a number of European championships and made it to the final of the World Championship. So it may only be a matter of time before she becomes the World Champion.
In contemporary dance there is the before mentioned Erna Ómarsdóttir, and I should also mention dancer and choreographer Ásrún Magnúsdóttir as well as Ásgerður G. Gunnarsdóttir that is joint artistic director of Reykjavík Dance Festival.
There are many more notable Icelandic dancers, feel free to let me know who I should add to the list!
Carpe Diem and see you on the dance floor!